Refugees and human displacement

Authored by: Gilad Ben-Nun

The Routledge Handbook of Transregional Studies

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138718364
eBook ISBN: 9780429438233
Adobe ISBN:


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The migration of humans between different world regions is inextricably intertwined with the very notion of human development since prehistory (Hoerder 2002). Within this longue durée perspective, the identification of refugees as a distinct category of migrants has gradually come about, and was at least partially recognized as early as the sixteenth century. The feature that sets refugees apart from other migrants is the persecution they are subjected to on account of their religion, ethnicity, social class, or gender. This persecution, which in turn triggers their flight from their places of dwelling toward places where their lives, freedoms, and identities can be secured, distinguishes refugees from other migrants. While the grounds for the persecution of refugees vary, one recurring feature has been their targeting as a distinct human group rather than each as an individual. Consequently, contemporary international legal efforts to curb the persecution of refugees and accord them international protections all hinge upon an unequivocal refusal to consider group identities as grounds for persecution, and the strict demand to consider each refugee first and foremost as a rights-deserving, individual human being.

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